Lloyd Brown

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Left-handed pitcher Lloyd Brown came from Beeville, Texas, a small town a little more than halfway from San Antonio to Corpus Christi. His route to the majors was through Mexican ball. Brown pitched more than 30 years, and managed for 11 years in the minors, before becoming a scout.

Brown was born in Beeville on Christmas Day, 1904, or perhaps 1906. He himself declared the year was 1906, on his Hall of Fame player questionnaire. Likewise, his Florida death certificate gives the same 1906 date (though, of course, that information may well have come from him, too). The 1910 census showed him as five years old, suggesting that the 1904 date is more likely correct.

Lloyd was the youngest of six children born to James F. and Susie A. Brown. James was a Georgia native born to two North Carolinians and Susie a native of Mississippi born to two Alabamans. James did a land office business, literally, dealing in real estate.

Lloyd reported attending Beeville Grammar School and spending two years at Beeville High. A newspaper clipping found in Brown's Hall of Fame player file says that he had played town ball and high-school ball, then left home to go to Tampico, Mexico, where he played two or three years for the Freeport Oil Co. team in the Oil League, working as an oil gauger when not playing ball.1

He was apparently called "El Grandote Burro" at Tampico ("the big burro"), though in fact he stood just 5-feet-9 and is listed at 170 pounds. He threw and batted left-handed.

A friend of his, Beeville native Curt Walker, put in a good word for him and secured him a tryout in 1923 with the Phillies, Walker's team at the time.2

Brown looked good enough in spring training at Leesburg, Florida, that the Phillies signed him to a contract and farmed him out to the Williamsport Billies in the New York-Penn League. He was 8-8 for Williamsport when he took ill and had to return home in July. His record also shows him 0-1 for the Newark Bears in 1923. The Phillies released him after the season, and he signed for 1924 with the Paris, Texas, team in the Class-D East Texas League. There he won 14 games against 12 losses for a team that finished in last place, 43-72. Brown led the league in strikeouts with 224. Before the season was over, his contract was sold and he was 2-2 in eight games for Class-A Wichita Falls.

A sore arm in the springtime of 1925 was discouraging, and Wichita Falls sent him to the Ardmore, Oklahoma, Boomers, managed by George Whiteman. Suddenly, his arm must have gotten better. It was Class-C ball, but a 17-1 record resulted, and a league-leading 2.45 ERA. Needless to say, he led the Western Association in winning percentage as well. Ardmore finished in second place, but won the playoffs, taking four of five games. Brown was no longer with Ardmore, though. He'd won those 17 games by early July and on July 6 was sold to the Brooklyn Robins for a reported $18,000.

His big-league debut was on July 17 at Ebbets Field. He pitched the last two innings of the game against the visiting Cincinnati Reds (Curt Walker played right field in the game for the Reds), and gave up two runs. The Reds won, 4-0, with Rube Erhardt taking the loss for the Robins. The New York Times thought he was named "Arthur Brown," but said he "gave promise of developing."3

Brown appeared in 17 games for Brooklyn, starting five of them, and was 0-3, despite a decent 4.12 earned run average. His final loss of the season, on September 23, was to the Cubs, 2-1.

He reported to spring training in 1926, just a week after having his tonsils removed. He was in a weakened physical condition, so was sent to Spartanburg. There, more misfortune struck in the form of a broken ankle on June 15. He was 3-5 at the time. In 1927, Brown pitched for the Memphis Chicks (Southern Association) and had a very good year, 18-7 with a 3.35 ERA. Clyde Milan was the Memphis manager and he recommended Brown to the Washington Senators. The Senators traded for him on September 8.4 Frank H. Young wrote, "It is the consensus of opinion that Brown has more stuff than any left-hander in the Southern League."5 Young later included Brown in a list of ballplayers scouted by Joe Engel.6 Two days before he was traded to Washington, he married Ruth Patrick, on September 6.

For Bucky Harris and the Senators, Brown was 4-4 (4.04 ERA) in 107 innings over 27 games (10 starts) in 1928.

Walter Johnson became the new Washington manager in 1929, and he said he'd heard very good reports about Brown and that he intended to work with him to help him develop. "They tell me he has the stuff but needs plenty of work. If the first part of this is true I'll guarantee he'll be given plenty of work."7 Brown did get plenty of work; he appeared in 40 games in 1929, including 15 starts, throwing 168 innings. He was 8-7 with a 4.18 ERA, slightly better than the fifth-place Senators' 4.38 team ERA.

There was a scare during spring training in March 1930. The car driven by Brown's wife plunged into a river near Hattiesburg as she drove in a party of five cars carrying player wives; she was not seriously injured.8 Brown led the Senators in victories in 1930, with a 16-12 (4.25 ERA) record, but just by a hair. Four other Senators each had 15 wins: General Crowder, Bump Hadley. Sad Sam Jones, and Firpo Marberry. The team finished in second place, eight games behind the Athletics. He had another very good year in 1931 – 15-14 (3.20 ERA) --; though the Senators finished third. And he added 15 more wins in 1932, against 12 losses, with a 4.44 earned run average as the Senators again finished third.

After the 1931 season there had been an incident in Beeville, in which his brother John was shot through the left lung by one E.M. Vaughn. John was reported as "resting easy" and Vaughn was charged with assault with intent to murder.9

After the 1932 season, Brown was packaged in a six-player deal that sent him to the St. Louis Browns with Carl Reynolds and Sam West (and $20,000), for Goose Goslin, Fred Schulte, and Lefty Stewart. He wasn't with the Browns long. He hit a rough patch, getting a loss in each of his first five appearances (three starts, and two in relief). He won on April 30, despite giving up seven earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, then lost a sixth game a week later. On May 9, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox, a significant component (the Sox needed another southpaw) in the trade which brought future Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell to Boston for Merv Shea and some of new Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey's cash.

He pitched the rest of the 1933 season for the Red Sox, leaving behind the 7.15 ERA he'd had with St. Louis. For Boston, he got somewhat back on track, worked a 4.02 ERA, and was 8-11. The Red Sox thought they could do better, though, and as soon as the season was over, he was swapped to the Cleveland Indians (on October 12) for Bill Cissell.

After an operation for appendicitis in February 1934, Brown spent the next four years pitching for the Indians, mostly in relief, though he did start 44 games over the four seasons. He was a combined 23-33 (4.34 ERA) over those years, only once with a winning record (8-7 in 1935).

On February 2, 1938, the Indians released him and he signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox 10 days later. The White Sox assigned him to the St. Paul Saints and he pitched there in 1938 and 1939 (12-8 and 13-12, respectively). He had beaten the Kansas City Blues three times in 1939, with New York Yankees farm director George Weiss on hand for all three. Weiss signed Brown, conditionally, but the Yankees farm system was well-supplied and so he was returned to St. Paul.

On March 20, 1940, the Philadelphia Phillies purchased his contract from the White Sox. Back now with the team that had first signed him in 1923, Brown appeared in 18 games (two starts), but he was 1-3 with a 6.21 ERA. He had serious bronchial trouble that summer and in August was placed on the voluntarily retired list.

In 1941, after a successful offseason playing golf, coming in second only to Merv Shea in that February's baseball golf tournament, Brown signed as a free agent and pitched in 33 games (5-7) for the Seattle Rainiers. He was also briefly with the Anaheim Angels. He placed third in the 1942 baseball players' golf tournament. He was reportedly traded to Toronto in January, but differing newspaper reports show him with Seattle and Toronto in 1942.Brown shows up in neither team's year-end stats, perhaps because he appeared in few games.

In 1943, he pitched for Toronto (2-4) and Memphis (5-2). After the season, he was rejected for military service at Camp Forrest due to an old leg injury (the source of his nickname "Gimpy"). It was Memphis again in 1944 (9-13, 3.57), and in 1945 (after a March trade) he worked for Buffalo (12-9, 4.04).

Brown began a managerial career in 1946, but he didn't stop pitching. After working one inning for Chattanooga, he was released in May. He signed to replace George Nix as manager of the Newnan Brownies in the Class-D Georgia-Alabama League. The team finished fourth in the six-team league; Brown's 2.17 earned run average led the league. His record was 9-8.

He remained in the Browns’ system in 1947, managing the Globe-Miami Browns in the Arizona-Texas League. His 14 wins led the team, and his 167 strikeouts led the league. He switched affiliations, to the Cleveland system, in 1948, but stayed in the same league, managing the Tucson Cowboys to a second-place finish. Brown won 15 and lost 7, and his 3.01 led the league. He turned 44 that December.

Brown appeared briefly – four games over two years – while managing the Central League Burlington (Iowa) Indians in 1949 and the Pittsfield (Massachusetts) Indians (Canadian-American League) in 1950. The Burlington team finished first in the standings, but Pittsfield finished seventh.

He began 1951 with Fort Lauderdale, then moved to the Borger (Texas) Gassers in the West Texas-New Mexico League, perhaps reminiscent in some ways of his ballplaying days in Tampico. He managed them again in 1952 and the start of 1953, then moved on to Albuquerque. He'd pitched a fair amount for Borger, albeit with mediocre earned run averages – he was 6-10 (6.84) in 1951 and 16-9 (5.09) in 1952. In 1953 his combined stats for Borger and Albuquerque were 13-9 (5.78). He turned 49 in December.

There was one more season where he put in some work from the mound – in 1955, in his 51st year, managing the Cordele (Georgia) Orioles of the Georgia-Florida League for part of the season Brown was 4-5 with a 2.84 ERA.

Brown began scouting for the Baltimore Orioles in 1955 and 1956. In December 1955, the Orioles announced that Brown would manage their Provincial League team at Thetford Mines, Quebec, but it's not clear that the league survived into 1956. In September, 1956, the Phillies hired Brown as a scout for the Caribbean countries; he spoke fluent Spanish, which would clearly be an asset.10

SABR's Scouts Committee database shows that he scouted for the Phillies in 1957-1958 and the Senators in 1962-1964. He was an instructor at the Florida Baseball School in West Palm Beach in 1967, and scouted for the Central Scouting Bureau, the forerunner of the Major League Scouting Bureau, in 1968. The Seattle Pilots signed him to scout in August 1968, and he switched to the Braves in 1969. In November, 1969, the Phillies again hired Brown for the Caribbean, as their first full-time scout in the region. Based in Miami, he was assigned to cover Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.11

At the end of his life, Brown had been "critically ill and destitute" but fortunately was befriended by John Priestes. Priestes had been an outfielder in the Phillies system and who played in 14 games for the Tampa Tarpons in 1955, but had gone on to become successful in the construction business. He came by to visit Brown, picked up his medical bills, and provided transportation for him until Brown died from cancer on January 14, 1974, in Opa-locka, Florida. Priestes was given the Good Guy Award by the Florida Major League Scouts Association to be presented that November in St. Petersburg.12

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Brown’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, Rod Nelson of SABR's Scouts Committee, and the SABR Minor Leagues Database, accessed online at Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Bill Carle.

 

Notes

1 "Finds His Stripe in Rainbow," unattributed article from unknown publication dated July 28, 1932, found in Brown's Hall of Fame player file.

2 John B. Keller, "Young Southpaw May Prove Star," datelined April 5, 1929, but actual publication and date unknown. Much of the information about Brown's early career comes from this lengthy article, which is found in Brown's player file at the Hall of Fame.

3 Richards Vidmer, "Caveney's Catches Help Cage Robins," New York Times, July 18, 1925: 9.

4 Frank H. Young. "Two Nats Go To Memphis in Trade," Washington Post, September 9, 1927: 15.

5 Ibid.

6 Frank H. Young, "The Ivory Hunters of Baseball," Washington Post, June 2, 1929: SM3.

7 Frank H. Young, "Johnson's Own Training Idea Installed," Washington Post, February 26, 1929:13.

8 "Car Plunges Into Stream," Biloxi Herald, March 20, 1930: 1.

9 "Brother of Lefty Brown is Wounded at Beeville," Dallas Morning News, October 28, 1931: 3.

10 "Lloyd Brown to Scout Caribbean for the Phils," Washington (DC) Evening Star, September 27, 1956: 70.

11 "News from the Phillies" press release dated November 21, 1969.

12 Unattributed news clipping dated March 30, 1974, found in Brown's Hall of Fame player file. Priestes was described as a "builder now serving a one-year prison term for FHA corruption" who "hopes to be sprung in time to accept the award." The article noted "Baseball and shady politics are poles apart." The characterization of Brown as destitute comes from the same article.